The Interior Minister of Bosnia’s Serb-majority region, Dragan Lukac, said on Tuesday that he was only defending himself when he hit opposition lawmaker Drasko Stanivukovic in the face during a session of the regional Parliament the day before, arguing that he felt threatened and accusing the National Assembly management of not reacting timely to prevent the incident.
Lawmakers in Republika Srpska (RS), one of Bosnia's two semi-autonomous entities, discussed on Monday evening the ‘Reform Programme’ which Bosnia sent to NATO.
NATO remains unpopular among Serbs since the alliance launched airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-95 Bosnian war and against the Serbian military in 1999 during the conflict between Belgrade and ethnic Albanians in Kosovo.
Opposition parties in the region accused Bosnian Serb Presidency member and leader of the strongest RS party, Milorad Dodik, of pushing Bosnia into NATO and thus betraying Serb interests by agreeing to send the document.
Drasko Stanivukovic, a member of the opposition Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), brought little NATO flags to the RS National Assembly session as a sign of protest. He made loud comments while Lukac, a member of the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), was speaking.
The two then got into a heated argument during which Lukac told Stanivukovic he would “end up like the NATO flags” which were laying on the floor, broken.
The Minister then challenged Stanivukovic to approach him.
Stanivukovic did so, and Lukac slapped him.
Lukac said that the management of the National Assembly should have reacted in time to prevent the incident.
“The management of the National Assembly did not sanction any of the lawmakers for their inappropriate behaviour. They did not respect the guidelines which say that those lawmakers who obstruct speakers must be removed from the National Assembly,” Lukac said.
He said that “this was not the first time that the opposition behaves this way.”
“We saw absolutely inappropriate behaviour, more like a rampage and roaring and yelling that was not even appropriate for stadiums or groups of sports fans, let alone MPs,” he said, adding that the opposition also damaged National Assembly equipment.
“Stanivukovic stood up from his seat, walked across the entire room, approached the podium and pushed the microphone on me,” Lukac said.
“Nobody from the government or those in power has ever done something like this. Stanivukovic has done this multiple times, and in the end, he did it to me,” he added.
“Stanivukovic approached me in a threatening way, I don’t know with what intention, and he waved his arms around. I pushed him away from me, that can be seen in the footage and no injuries were caused. I intended to prevent him from endangering me,” he said, arguing that it was logical to expect that Stanivukovic would hit him considering the young lawmaker’s behaviour.
“Like every other person, I have a right to defend myself when I feel threatened. At that moment, I felt threatened. If he wanted to tell me something, he could have done so while seated. I will not allow anyone to endanger me anywhere, I do not endanger anyone and I have the right to say what I think in the National Assembly, as they (the opposition) are doing and were never prevented from,” he said.
The PDP has immediately requested Lukac's resignation after the incident.
“Only the one who gave me the mandate can ask for my resignation and I will resign immediately when that is asked of me or if I commit a crime which is not in line with the job I am doing. In this case, I have done no such thing and I do not intend to,” Lukac said.